"In her case, she never admitted to a violent crime, nobody told her she was accused of a violent crime, and 15 years later they say, 'We decided you're violent and no one can prove that we're wrong,' " her lawyer, Marvin Miller, said in an interview.
Although her name is publicly available in Virginia's sex offender registry, the district court allowed the woman to file her case under a pseudonym to protect her privacy and that of her children. Lawyers for the state consented to the arrangement, which is rare and usually reserved to protect the victims of sexual abuse cases.
Like dozens of states, Virginia has moved to bolster its sex offender registration and notification laws since Congress approved the Adam Walsh Act in 2006. The federal law, named for a Florida boy abducted and murdered in 1981, sought to get states to better coordinate and expand their sex-offender registries.
The changes in Virginia and elsewhere have seen the rolls of sex-offender registries swell to include those convicted long ago and those whose offenses were previously considered too minor to be placed on a registry. Lawmakers see the changes as a way to keep children safe from sexual predators who might strike again.
Virginia argues in court briefs that it was entitled to create the new registry to protect residents from possible repeat sex offenders. It relies on a 2003 Supreme Court case that upheld a Connecticut sex offender registry. The state says it has offered a reasonable process for anyone on the registry to seek review in state courts and the school board to gain access to school property.
"Although Doe may present a sympathetic case because she now has school-aged children of her own, the presumption against allowing access would apply equally to the most hardened offenders, including the 50-year-old man convicted of having sexual relations with a 13-year-old," attorneys for the Virginia Department of State Police argue in their brief.